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Friday, 20 April 2018

8 WACKY PRODUCTIVITY APPS THAT FORCE YOU TO PERFORM UNDER PRESSURE

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How to Perform Under Pressure With These 8 Wacky Productivity Apps
By Dann Albright,
Make Use Of, 13 April 2018.

Pressure helps people be more productive. Whether you like them or not, deadlines probably get you to work faster. They might add stress to your life, and make you feel like you’re not getting enough done. But pressure does, generally, help.

Want to add some pressure to your life? Try one of these apps and sites that force you to work quickly.

1. The Most Dangerous Writing App

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There may be no other app that puts on as much pressure as this one. The Most Dangerous Writing App (TMDWA) (Free) forces you to keep writing, lest all of your work be lost. When you stop typing, your words start to fade and the screen goes red.

If you wait five seconds, everything is deleted and you’ll need to start over.

This is a great tool for writers who know they can get words down, but find it difficult to keep themselves focused and motivated to keep going.

You can choose a session length from three to 60 minutes or a word count. And you have the option of enabling hardcore mode, which obscures your text, making it impossible to edit while you write.

2. Flowstate


The app that came before TMDWA, Flowstate offers much of the same functionality with a nicer interface. It’s also downloadable so you don’t have to write in your browser. Browsers are inherently distracting, so using a standalone app might be easier.

Flowstate has more options for session length than TMDWA, and it also offers you a choice of font. Is it worth US$5 or US$10? It might be if you like nicely built apps more than browser windows.

Will it replace Pages or Word? Probably not. But it’s a great way to supplement them.

Download: Flowstate for Mac (US$10) | iOS (US$5)

3. Gone

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Putting an item on your to-do list should mean that you’re going to tackle it right away. But often we use our task lists as a place to store things for long periods of time or remind us how much we’re procrastinating.

Gone (Free) doesn’t let you do that. You put a task on it, and it will disappear in 24 hours. If you haven’t completed it in that time, it’s gone.

You can create an account to sign in so you can access your list from another computer or your phone, but that’s about the only feature this one has to offer.

4. Tet

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Instead of giving you 24 hours to complete your tasks, Tet gives you until the end of the day. At the end of the day, every task that you haven’t checked off gets deleted.

And to add insult to injury, Tet keeps score. Every time you check an item off of your list, the counter in the corner of the app goes up by one. Every time one gets removed at the end of the day, it goes down by one.

You can’t pretend that you’re more productive than you are, because Tet will tell you the truth.

Download: Tet for Android (Free)

5. Forest

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Forest is a great app for helping curb smartphone addiction (or just to keep you from playing Clash of Clans until you get your current project done). But growing a tree is peaceful and serene - where’s the pressure?

The app received an update that now allows you to team up with friends, and your trees will only grow if everyone has the app running and doesn’t get distracted.

Which means if you’re on your phone, everyone else’s tree will be stunted. That’s peer pressure for you.

Download: Forest for iOS | Android (US$1.99)

6. Time 2

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Add a task to Time 2 and tell the app how long you think it will take you to do it. The timer counts down, and you see how much time you have left.

But if you go over that time, the app will let you know. It sounds an alarm and then starts counting up. So you know exactly how much longer it took than planned.

It’s not quite as high-pressure as some of the other apps, but it will remind you that you’re missing your deadline. Which is definitely pressure enough for many people.

Download: Time 2 for iOS (Free)

7. Tab Wrangler

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Like the ephemeral to-do lists above, you can make your browser tabs disappear after a certain amount of time. Tab Wrangler makes it easy - just set an amount of time and they’ll be gone after that much inactivity.

It’s a good idea to use Tab Wrangler even if you don’t use this feature, as it can help keep Chrome from using all your RAM.

You can always get the tabs back, but knowing that they’re going to disappear if you don’t use them can help motivate you to actually make use of the tabs that you have open.

Download: Tab Wrangler for Chrome | Firefox (Free)

8. CARROT To-Do


While Carrot To-Do doesn’t turn on the pressure as much as the time-based apps above, it will berate you when you don’t get something done, which may help you put more pressure on yourself.

Carrot is friendly when you’re productive and checking things off of the list. But she’ll get angry if you start procrastinating. And while her admonitions are very entertaining, it’s still a reminder that you’re not getting enough done.

Other Carrot apps, including Fit, Weather, and Hunger, also employ this signature sassy personality.

Download: CARROT To-Do for iOS (US$2.99)

Put the Pressure On

Deadlines and pressure might stress you out, but they can be a big help when you need to get things done. And while it might seem crazy to give yourself tight deadlines when you don’t have to, you might find that it revolutionizes your productivity.

Don’t forget to try these other productivity tactics backed by science. Or try something completely different, and give your to-do list the boot.

Top image credit: geralt/Pixabay.

[Source: Make Use Of. Top image and some links added.]

Thursday, 19 April 2018

10 DISEASES THAT PREVENT OTHER DISEASES

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10 Diseases That Prevent Other Diseases
By Ashley Hopkins,
Listverse, 19 April 2018.

Genetic disorders are passed down from generation to generation. Sometimes, only one parent passes down the faulty gene, which creates carriers of a genetic disease. Some carriers of certain genetic disorders have been proven to be more resistant to certain viral or infectious diseases. Although many genetic disorders can be very harmful, there can be some benefits to either being a carrier or showing full symptoms of a disease. Similarly, infection by certain pathogens will sometimes grant the sufferer resistance to other illnesses down the road.

The following diseases have been proven to promote some degree of resistance against other illnesses. Some of the viruses mentioned continue to be incurable, and studying factors that grant resistance to these pathogens can help researchers develop more effective treatment options. So here are ten diseases that prevent other diseases.

10. Sickle-Cell And Malaria

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People who are carriers of the sickle-cell gene have been proven to be more resistant to malaria. Sickle-cell is a condition where the red blood cells are misshapen, becoming crescent-shaped and more susceptible to clotting. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 60 percent of sickle-cell carriers survive malaria. This means that in areas of high concentration of malaria transfer (Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and the Indo-Pacific region), there are also large numbers of sickle-cell carriers.

How exactly sickle-cell prevents malaria is by a component of hemoglobin, haem. Low concentration of haem stimulates haem oxengase-1, which also breaks down haem. This allows for carbon monoxide to become more evident in the blood, because haem oxengase-1 releases carbon monoxide, which plays a critical role in the prevention of malaria.[1] A group of scientists tested this on mice and observed these results.

9. Tay-Sachs And Tuberculosis

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Photo credit: Yale Rosen

Tay-Sachs carriers have shown signs that their Tay-Sachs gene protects against Mycobacteria tuberculosis, which, you guessed it, causes tuberculosis. Tay-Sachs disease destroys neurons in the brain and spinal cord and is more common among Ashkenazi Jews, probably because of the segregation and lack of immigration in this group. There has been a proven correlation between the widespread Tay-Sachs gene and tuberculosis in this particular population.

However, Tay-Sachs carriers produce a certain subunit of the enzyme hexosamindinase. This subunit is closely associated with the prevention of tuberculosis, because it destroys the Mycobacteria and causes other bacteria on the cells’ surfaces to become less active.[2] So, despite the increased incidence of tuberculosis in Ashkenazi Jews, there are fewer deaths due to the disease.

8. Cystic Fibrosis And Cholera

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Carriers of cystic fibrosis have been shown to survive Vibrio cholerae, the lethal strain of cholera. Cystic fibrosis causes channels in the respiratory system to be blocked with thick mucus. The mucus will build up in the lungs and create a bacterial breeding ground. It also affects the digestive system by blocking the enzymes that digest the food in the small intestine. However, carriers do not experience the effects of this disease, and they may not experience the effects of cholera, either.

Cholera is deadly because it will cause the patient to lose about 19 liters (5 gal) of water a day, ultimately leading to dehydration. Cystic fibrosis blocks chloride channels, keeping fluids in. As a result, even carriers of the cystic fibrosis gene who are infected with cholera will lose half the amount of fluid. This limited fluid secretion is enough to flush out the cholera toxins from the intestines without causing dehydration.[3] So, just one cystic fibrosis gene will prevent the lethal effects of cholera by preventing the dehydration associated with it.

7. Cystic Fibrosis And Tuberculosis

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According to New Scientist, cystic fibrosis does protect against cholera, but cholera doesn’t kill enough people to justify the prevalence of the cystic fibrosis gene. Between 1600 and 1900, about 20 percent of deaths in Europe were caused by tuberculosis, and that would explain why carriers of the cystic fibrosis gene are so prominent, because carriers live to maturity to pass on their genes. Those who have two genes for cystic fibrosis die before being able to pass on their DNA, and the same goes for many people who contracted tuberculosis.

However, those who only have one gene for cystic fibrosis have shown some resistance to tuberculosis, hence the gene still being prevalent among Europeans and those of European descent. The cystic fibrosis gene would have died out, but it has lasted for thousands of years, so there must be some usefulness to it.[4] That usefulness is said to be resistance to tuberculosis.

6. Cowpox And Smallpox

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Photo credit: George Henry Fox

Cowpox, a viral skin infection, is basically a mild smallpox. Although cowpox isn’t necessarily pleasant to contract, the human body will stop the progression of the infection after a certain period of time, so the infection itself is not lethal. Cowpox can prevent smallpox because they are both essentially the same infection.

By being introduced to the cowpox infection, the immune system is able to develop immunity to it. When a more deadly version of that infection is introduced, it is easier for the immune system to prevent severe effects. Famously, Edward Jenner utilized cowpox to create the smallpox vaccine in the late 1700s.[5]

5. Phenylketonuria And Mycotic Abortions

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According to an online study, “Physicians observed that women who were PKU [phenylketonuria] carriers had a much lower than average incidence of miscarriages.”[6] PKU is a genetic disease in which phenylalanine builds up in the body, which causes issues when the patient consumes a large amount of protein. The body disables the production of an enzyme that breaks down this substance, and the buildup can be lethal to the patient.

Although PKU may cause significant health issues, carriers have an advantage when it comes to protecting themselves against mycotic abortions, pregnancy losses due to fungal infection. This is most prominent in Scotland and Ireland, because the atmosphere is a prime environment for fungi, some of which can cause mycotic abortions. Phenylalanine, which causes the health issues in PKU patients, fights against the major toxin in most fungi that cause spontaneous abortions. Since PKU carriers have a large amount of phenylalanine, they are able to better fend off infectious fungi and protect their unborn offspring.

4. Myasthenia Gravis And Rabies

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There is a correlation between patients with myasthenia gravis and the prevention of rabies. Myasthenia gravis is a muscular disease in which the voluntarily moved muscles become fatigued and are weakened. This is caused by faulty connections between the nervous system and the muscular system. Rabies infects the nervous system best through the skeletal muscles, probably because rabies is usually transmitted through animal bites.

Since rabies is commonly injected into the muscular system by a bite, those afflicted with myasthenia gravis are much less susceptible to rabies because they have faulty connections between the muscles and the nerves. It is very difficult for rabies to cause harm to the nervous system when it cannot enter it in the first place.[7] Although the muscles are not the only point of entry rabies has into the central nervous system, they are a significant entry point for the peripheral nervous system. This can prevent the infection or prolong it until the patient can seek medical attention.

3. Niemann-Pick Disease And Ebola

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Photo credit: Daniel Bausch, CDC

Niemann-Pick is a disease where cholesterol abnormally accumulates within lysosomes. The cholesterol accumulates because of a shortage of a specific protein called NPC1, which will transport the cholesterol out of the lysosomes. It has been proven that the NPC1 protein is associated with the Ebola infection process. The Ebola virus has been documented to poorly infect fibroblasts of patients who have Niemann-Pick disease, while it did better in fibroblasts where NPC1 was abundant.

Basically, the Ebola virus cannot efficiently infect people with Niemann-Pick disease because without the presence of NPC1, it is extremely difficult to do so.[8]

2. Niemann-Pick Disease And Marburg

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Similar to the Ebola virus, Niemann-Pick disease promotes resistance to Marburg. Marburg is a filovirus, like Ebola, and has a high mortality rate.[9] It causes hemorrhages and severe shock syndrome, mostly fatal among humans and nonhuman primates.

Much like with Ebola, Niemann-Pick disease patients resist Marburg by having a shortage of NPC1, which enables filoviruses to reproduce and spread. Because these viruses are unable to spread, it is much easier for patients with Niemann-Pick disease to fight Marburg, since it is no longer deadly if it cannot reproduce.

1. Congenital Disorder Of Glycosylation 2b And Viral Infections

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Congenital disorder of glycosylation 2b (CDG-IIb) has been shown to prevent viral infections such as HIV, influenza, herpes, and hepatitis C. This extremely rare disease causes resistance to viral infections by the presence of a “defective mannosyl-oligosaccharide glucosidase (MOGS), which is the initial enzyme in the processing phase of N-linked oligosaccharides.”[10]

This basically means that glycoprotein synthesis is not able to function properly. Viruses depend on proper cell glycosylation for reproduction, and because CDG-IIb patients do not have proper glycosylation, these viruses are unable to be maintained. Studies show that people with CDG-IIb responded normally to non-replicating viruses but did not respond to live glycosylation-dependent virus vaccines. MOGS inhibitors also prevent the replication of cells infected with enveloped viruses, and this means that the viruses are unable to spread.

Top image: Ebola virus. Credit: NIAID/Flickr.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

10 WAYS TO WEAN YOURSELF OFF SMARTPHONES AND SOCIAL MEDIA

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How to Wean Yourself Off Smartphones and Social Media
By Rob Marvin,
PCMag, 16 April 2018.

How often do you open your smartphone and suddenly find yourself having lost 30 minutes or perhaps hours of your day?

It's all too easy to get lost in our screens as we tap from app to app and scroll through social feeds. In our hyper-connected world, cutting out tech altogether is unrealistic unless you're ready to drop off the grid and move to a log cabin in the wilderness. What you can do is try consuming tech mindfully.

Whether you think you're spending too much time on social media, feel like you're becoming too attached to your smartphone, or you're suffering from a more serious tech addiction, we could all stand to be a little less wired. Here are some tips to wean yourself off compulsive smartphone and social media habits, and how to regain control over how you consume technology.

1. Change Notification Settings

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Are your push notifications still set to defaults? Are you getting a deluge of emails, messages, and alerts from Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Slack, and dozens of other apps? Cut out the noise.

Go into notification settings on all your devices - smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops - and turn everything off that's not essential. Notifications appearing as red dots next to your app icons are visual cues begging you to check them. One good rule is to turn off all notifications except for direct messages and mentions, meaning the ones coming from real people.

2. Grayscale

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The Center for Humane Technology says the "colorful icons give our brains shiny rewards every time we unlock." Setting your phone to grayscale is a way to train your mind to check your phone less. On iOS devices, go to Settings > General > Accessibility and scroll down to Accessibility Shortcut. If you check the Color Filters option, it unlocks a feature allowing you to triple-tap the home button to turn grayscale on and off. On Android, the process may vary, but check under Settings > About phone.

3. Stop Using Your Phone As An Alarm Clock

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Don't keep your smartphone within reach at night. Rather than charging it on your nightstand, your phone should charge further away from your bed or ideally be left in another room entirely so you're not tempted to pick it up if you wake up in the middle of the night. The best way to do that is to get a separate alarm clock so your wake-up isn't tied to your device.

Other good tips include not using smartphones for the last hour before bed and using apps like f.lux or Night Shift on iOS devices to reduce blue light stimulating your mind before sleep. But the best remedy for tech-related sleep issues is to keep your smartphone as far away at night as possible.

4. Set Social Boundaries


One key thing missing from the way many of us use technology is etiquette. When is it appropriate to have your smartphone out and when is it considered rude? If you're having a face-to-face conversation with someone, resisting the urge to pull out a device is the first step toward cutting out an unhealthy or rude behavior. One good rule is not to have devices on the table during meals, whether that's in a restaurant or at home. Especially if there are kids at the table who don't have their own devices yet, it's a bad precedent to set if you're scrolling through Instagram in one hand, eating with the other, and barely pretending to listen to the conversation.

5. Switch to a Utility-First Layout

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What are the first apps on your home screen? Do Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or Reddit come up in your first few rows of apps? First off, put all your social apps in a folder and banish it to the furthest reaches of your smartphone; the last of the home screens. If you want to check them, your mind will have to work for it.

Instead, turn your smartphone back into a tool. Put the utility apps on your home screen: the camera, calendar, maps, notes, ride-hailing apps, weather, etc. For everything else - games, social apps, and even messaging apps if they’re not essential - your mind should have to put in a conscious effort to open them.

6. Launch Apps By Typing

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Modern smartphone interfaces are designed as intuitively as possible so you can use them without having to think about it. It's easy to tap into an app and start scrolling without even considering whether you opened it for a reason. Even that small change in behavioral architecture lets you pause for a moment and think about whether you're opening the app for a reason.

On iOS, swipe down from the home screen to open the search bar and type for the app you want. Another good tip is to turn off Siri Suggestions by going to Siri & Search from the Settings menu and toggling off the two options. On Android you can use the Search Box on your home screen.

7. Cut Out Distractions

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There are a number of apps out there designed to help you focus and cut out digital distractions. Thrive puts a user into Thrive Mode to block all apps, notifications, calls, and texts except for "VIPs" you've designated. Meditation apps like Calm and Headspace are designed to help you de-stress and focus your mind. Freedom temporarily blocks apps and websites for set periods of time. You can motivate yourself with gamification, too. Forest plants virtual seeds that grow into trees the longer you stay off your phone.

Extensions can also help you use sites like Facebook and YouTube in more targeted ways. Distraction Free YouTube removes recommended videos from sidebars to keep you from getting sucked in. News Feed Eradicator blurs out Facebook posts for users who want to use the app only as a utility for things like events and groups. The Facebook Demetricator extension hides like, comment, and share numbers to keep you from fixating on feedback and rewards cycles.

8. Monitor Your App Usage


Tech and social media use can often create a sense of dissociation in how much time you’ve spent looking at a screen. Monitoring your usage from app to app is a great way to identify behaviors you want to change. Apps like Moment for iOS and RescueTime for Mac and Windows help you break down exactly how much time you're spending on apps and devices. Thrive also has an app control panel to monitor your usage and set goals for how much you use specific apps.

9. Create Your Own Stopping Cues

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One of the reasons modern app and social media experiences suck you in is because there aren't built-in mechanisms that tell you to stop, like the end of a book chapter. We live in a digital world of endlessly scrolling feeds. In the streaming era, even the end of a TV episode doesn't mean much anymore when Netflix starts the next one five seconds later.

If you're concerned with how much time you're spending on your smartphone, social media, streaming video, or using your devices in general, sometimes it takes more than willpower to stop. If you only want to spend half an hour on Instagram or want to cap yourself at two Netflix episodes, schedule that time. Allot specific windows of your life for the online activities you care about. When that window is up, put the devices down. Another way to create stopping cues is to set an alarm for when it's time to stop, and put your clock or phone across the room so you have to get up to turn it off.

10. Delete the Apps

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If all else fails, you can always take the nuclear option and delete some social apps from your phone. Especially for social networks like Facebook, you can still log in from the web if there’s something you really need to check without having the urge to tap open the app at a moment's notice and get lost in your News Feed. You control your tech. Don't let it control you.

Top image: Social media addiction. Credit: TheBakaArts/DeviantArt.

[Source: PCMag. Top image added.]

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

6 FAMOUS PLACES THAT CONTAIN SECRET ROOMS

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The secret rooms of 6 famous places
By Josh Lew,
Mother Nature Network, 12 April 2018.

The Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty are universally recognizable and a visit there wouldn’t be complete without photographic proof.

But there are some photo opportunities that aren’t so well-known. These attractions are only two of the famous landmarks that contain secret rooms or floors that are hidden from public view.

Where are these mysterious spaces? You have to know where to look, and we can help with that.

1. The Statue of Liberty’s torch balcony

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Photo: Vermonster/Wikimedia Commons

Until a century ago, tourists were allowed to climb onto a platform on the Statue of Liberty’s torch. During World War I, an explosion in a military warehouse on a neighboring island in New York Harbor sent shrapnel into Lady Liberty, and the torch was damaged. It turned out that German agents had blown up munitions to keep them from being transported to Europe, where they would be used by British troops. Fearing more similar attacks, U.S. authorities decided not to reopen the torch.

The torch balcony still exists, but was never reopened to the public. You can, however, enjoy the view that those early 20th century tourists saw when they made the climb to the top of the statue. A webcam is perched on the balcony, so curious sightseers can enjoy a secondhand view from the secret platform.

2. Mount Rushmore’s secret room

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Despite being more remote than New York Harbor, the famous South Dakota carving of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln is certainly a major tourist draw. Legend has it that the creator of the famous four-headed monument, Gutzon Borglum, also wanted to make relief carvings with scenes from America’s history.

This did not happen, but he did hew out a room behind the heads with the goal of creating a repository for important historical documents. This so-called Hall of Records was unfinished when Borglum died, and it was deemed too dangerous for tourists. It remains closed to the public, and the entrance has been covered by a large slab of rock. According to Borglum’s wishes, however, it was stocked with panels featuring famous U.S. documents such as the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. Even though the room remains inaccessible for Rushmore visitors, they can see its location on an outcropping not far from Lincoln’s head.

3. The most exclusive apartment in Paris

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Photo: Serge Melki/Flickr

Gustave Eiffel, the creator and namesake of the famous Parisian tower, built a room for himself near the top of the landmark. Eiffel would spend time in the cozy apartment, probably enjoying the unparalleled view and privacy. Legend has it that wealthy Paris residents would offer him large sums of money to rent the rooms, but he always refused.

A luxury space further down the tower has welcomed guests in recent years. While the topmost apartment is still not available for rent, visitors can access it as part of a tour. Today, the apartment includes life-size figures of Eiffel and one of the few people he ever entertained there: Thomas Edison.

4. Disneyland’s private 'speakeasy'

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Photo: Mxreb0/Wikimedia Commons

While money couldn’t buy access to Eiffel’s tower-top apartment, it can get you into a secret part of Disneyland. Club 33 is located behind an unmarked door in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. Members, who have to pay fees that reach to tens of thousands of dollars, have access to non-public lounges, as well as a restaurant bearing the club's name.

The club is like a speakeasy, with members needing to press a hidden buzzer to gain access. Needless to say, almost all Disneyland visitors walk right past this entrance without having any idea that a luxurious club is right on the other side of the door. Similar Club 33s are opening in several Disney Worlds and Disneylands in Tokyo and Shanghai.

5. Gladiators’ 'green room' under the Colosseum

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Photo: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT/Wikimedia Commons

Not every secret remains a secret. The basement tunnels of the Colosseum in Rome were once used by gladiators and wild animals as they waited to appear in the arena above. These “green rooms,” collectively known as the hypogeum (underground chamber), were once off limits to tourists, but a portion of the basement was opened about a decade ago. Large parts of the famous landmark, which sees about 4 million visitors per year, are still off limits, however.

6. Grand Central Station’s Tennis Courts

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Photo: Kai Pilger/Wikimedia Commons

Some 750,000 people pass through New York City’s Grand Central Station (or Grand Central Terminal) every day. Many are tourists rather than commuters, but gawkers and workers alike rarely notice the hidden areas. One such space, the Vanderbilt Athletic Club, once housed an indoor ski slope and a television studio used by CBS. The club, which was actually once leased by then-real estate developer Donald Trump, was eventually closed to make way for an employee lounge.

The Vanderbilt’s tennis courts were moved to a new space on the fourth floor. They are now open to the public (though per-hour fees are quite steep). Despite this unique feature, many people, including many Grand Central Station employees, are unaware of the club’s existence.

Granted, a majority of the "secret" areas in famous places are probably more mundane. Odds are that unmarked door is a janitor’s closet, not an exclusive private club or a tennis court. Nonetheless, these hidden spaces do exist, and they are common enough that you can realistically imagine what amazing spaces might be lying out of sight.

Top image: Eiffel Tower. Credit: allabhamid/Pixabay.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Some images added.]

INFOGRAPHIC: A HEALTHY LOOK INTO THE WORLD OF VITAMINS

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Proper dieting and food supplements are essential when it comes to people’s overall well being. In fact, if your body were a machine, the vitamins you take would make sure it’s a well-oiled one. You can take your vitamins either from natural sources or by using food supplementation products. Since knowing what’s good for you is the first step to leading a healthy and carefree life, this infographic by 16best.net will show you which are the most important vitamins, what’s the minimum daily intake, and where you can find the best nutrients in nature.

https://www.16best.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/vitamins-infographic-1.png


[Post Source: 16best.net.]

Monday, 16 April 2018

4 REASONS WHY FACEBOOK IS A SECURITY AND PRIVACY NIGHTMARE

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4 Reasons Why Facebook Is a Security and Privacy Nightmare
By Dan Price,
Make Use Of, 12 April 2018.

Facebook is no longer the king of the social media castle. More and more people are starting to turn their backs on the network for good. And while it’s still possible to contend that you shouldn’t delete your account, the arguments in favor of ditching the service are piling up at an alarming rate.

If you value your security and/or privacy, keep reading.

1. A Terrible Track Record

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Image: Floating Ax Technologies/Facebook

In early 2018, Facebook hit the news headlines for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In simple terms, Zuckerberg’s company was complicit in letting the data analysis firm steal and retain information on 50 million of the service’s users.

If the incident was a one-off, you might be able to forgive Facebook. But it wasn’t a one-off. It was just the latest in a long line of data-handling missteps, and further proof that Facebook’s security isn’t up to par.

Here are some of the other most infamous incidents.

Beacon


Cast your mind back to 2007. Facebook had just opened to the public for the first time (previously, it was restricted to students).

In November of that year, the company launched Beacon. It was a script that allowed third-party websites to automatically post the actions of a user onto the network. For example, if you bought a plane ticket, it would suddenly pop up on your wall for everyone to see.

In today’s world, it barely seems believable, but the project lasted for two years until eventually being shut down following the settlement of a class-action lawsuit.

Instant Personalization

Instant Personalization was a pilot program launched in 2010.

It automatically shared a person’s information with affiliate sites. For example, it could share your favorite sports teams with a news site so you see appropriate headlines first, or it could share your favorite bands with a music website, and so on.

Here’s what the Electronic Frontier Foundation said about the scheme at the time:
“For users that have not opted out, Instant Personalization is instant data leakage. As soon as you visit the sites in the pilot program, they can access your name, your picture, your gender, your current location, your list of friends, and all the Pages you have Liked.
Even if you opt out of Instant Personalization, there’s still data leakage if your friends use Instant Personalization websites - their activities can give away information about you.”
This wasn’t the first (or last) time that your friends could be a threat to your Facebook privacy.

Applications and Identifying Information

In another 2010 scandal that - in hindsight - turned out to be a harbinger of things to come, the Wall Street Journal found that many Facebook apps were transmitting identifying information to online advertising tracking companies.

An HTTP referrer made it possible. It could expose both a user’s identity and their friends’ identities, posing a big threat to everyone’s Facebook privacy.

It took Facebook almost 12 months to remedy the issue.

2. Zuckerberg’s Duplicity on Privacy

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Image: Elaine Chan and Priscilla Chan/Wikimedia Commons

Mark Zuckerberg is a curious character. Facebook made him a multi-billionaire in his 20s and - for a long time in the 2000s - the media viewed him as a savior of sorts.

Here’s one of his public quotes from Facebook’s early days (via Forbes):
“By giving people the power to share, we’re making the world more transparent. When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place. So, what we view our role as, is giving people that power.”
Sounds honorable. But Zuckerberg seems to have a darker, duplicitous side. His quotes are Trump-esque; he doesn’t seem to maintain the same opinion from one interview to the next. Thus, it’s incredibly hard to know what he actually thinks about the topic of user privacy.

Let’s take a closer look.

Of course, there’s one quote that’s now infamous above all others (via The Register):
“I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, and addresses [of Harvard students]. People just submitted it. I don’t know why. They trust me. Dumb f*cks.”
But even if you attribute that to the exuberance of youth, Mark has consistently appeared to flip-flop on the subject of privacy.

Compare this quote from the D8 conference in June 2010:
“There have been misperceptions that we’re trying to make all information open, but that’s false. We encourage people to keep their information private.”
With this one from an interview with Wired June 2009:
“People can make their profile open to everyone. And what I would just expect is that as time goes on, we’re just going to keep on moving more and more in that direction.”
Alternatively, compare this quote from an op-ed in the Washington Post in May 2010:
“We do not share your personal information with people or services you don’t want. We do not give advertisers access to your personal information. And we do not and never will sell any of your information to anyone.”
With this quote from an interview with Time in the very same month:
“The way that people think about privacy is changing a bit […] What people want isn’t complete privacy.”
Even as recently as Spring 2017 - just nine months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal - he was offering mixed messages. Here’s what he told Freakonomics Radio host Stephen Dunbar in a podcast:
“Privacy is extremely important, and people engage and share their content and feel free to connect because they know that their privacy is going to be protected on Facebook.”
Why the Duplicity?

In some sense, Zuckerberg is caught between a rock and a hard place. On a personal level, he probably does believe in user privacy. But he’s also the CEO of a publicly listed company that’s worth in excess of US$500 billion and happens to be one of the largest ad agencies in the world.

Ultimately, he knows that Facebook’s future is dependent on keeping shareholders happy. To keep shareholders happy, Facebook needs to make copious amounts of cash. And to make copious amounts of cash, he has to play fast and loose with users’ data.

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The whole thing would feel more palatable if Zuckerberg was more honest about Facebook’s intentions. Why won’t he admit that Facebook users are the company’s product?

Instead, we’re left with an ongoing charade in which Facebook clearly uses your information to make money while simultaneously pretending privacy is one of its central tenets.

Which one do you think is more important to Facebook executives? Exactly. That’s why you should delete your account.

3. Government and Private Surveillance

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Image: Book Catalog/Flickr

You can split the issue of surveillance into two parts: government and a private company.

Government Surveillance

Oh, how the East German Stasi must have longed for a tool like Facebook. Can you imagine a better way for a repressive regime to monitor its citizens?


But the surveillance doesn’t end with dictatorships and secret police. People living in “democracies” are also under threat from Facebook’s cooperation with security forces.

Governments across North America and Europe now frequently order Facebook to give up users’ data to help them discover crimes, establish motives, prove or disprove alibis, and reveal communications. Much of it goes under the guise of “fighting terrorism,” but that’s a catch-all term whose meaning is becoming increasingly diluted.

And how does Facebook respond to the requests? Frankly, it rolls over meekly and gives the governments what they want.

If you’re in the US, the only exception is unopened inbox messages that are less than 181 days old. To access those, governments need a warrant and probable cause.

The company even tells you that it hands over data in its data policy (which replaced the Facebook privacy policy). It says the following:
“We may also share information when we have a good faith belief it is necessary to prevent fraud or other illegal activity, [or] to prevent imminent bodily harm […] This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, courts, or other government entities.”
Furthermore, in early 2018, the United States announced it was going to start vetting people’s social media profiles as part of its requirements for granting an entry visa. It’s only a matter of time until other countries follow suit.

If you don’t fancy giving the White House complete access to your Facebook life just to go on holiday to Disneyland, it’s better to reach for the delete button.

Private Company Surveillance

How would you feel if that funny-but-offensive meme you posted last week ended up costing you your dream job?

It could happen.

There are numerous instances of employers asking prospective employees for their Facebook login credentials. The issue became so prevalent that New Jersey had to pass a bill that made it illegal for employers to ask potential or current employees for access to their Facebook accounts. Even then, companies in several industries still spy on their employees.

To this day, there is still no federal law that protects the workers. The integrity of their Facebook privacy is left in the hands of employers.

4. Publishing Rights

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Image: geralt/Pixabay

We’ve all seen the statuses on Facebook. They typically read something like “In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, blah, blah, blah.”

Here’s the kicker. You already own the copyright to any original work you’ve posted on the network. That status update has absolutely no legal basis.

So, what’s all the fuss about?

It’s because Facebook’s terms and conditions lay claim to “Non-Exclusive, Transferable, Sub-Licensable, Royalty-Free” rights to anything you put on the network.

These all relate to publishing, not ownership. Your ownership of your content is not in question, but you have granted Facebook permission republish it in just about any way the company deems appropriate. It can even sell sub-licenses for your work and directly profit from it.

As we noted in a post on the ownership of Facebook photos elsewhere on the site, the only way you’re going to be able to renegotiate those terms is to talk with Facebook’s lawyers directly. And it’s just a hunch, but we suspect they won’t be too receptive to your protests.

From a privacy perspective, it means that you could create a piece of artwork with personally identifying information (like a selfie, or a love letter, or a poem), and Facebook could transfer the publishing rights to another entity, sell the sub-license for a fee, and not pay you a penny. Before you know it, you’re looking at a mugshot of yourself on the side of the New York subway.

Don’t take the risk.

The List Goes On…

We could list Facebook security and privacy concerns all day, but we won’t. Hopefully, you now have enough information to make an informed decision.

If you’re still not sure whether to delete Facebook, consider the non-privacy-based reasons to delete Facebook.

Top image credit: geralt/Pixabay.

[Source: Make Use Of. Some images added.]